Humans help each other — it’s one of the foundations of civilized society. But a new study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals that a lack of sleep blunts this fundamental human attribute, with real-world consequences.
Lack of sleep is known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, hypertension and overall mortality. However, these new discoveries show that a lack of sleep also impairs our basic social conscience, making us withdraw our desire and willingness to help other people.
Napping, as well as sleeping too much or too little or having poor sleep patterns, appears to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in older adults, new research shows.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adds to a growing body of evidence supporting sleep’s importance to good health. The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration to its checklist of health and lifestyle factors for cardiovascular health, known as Life’s Essential 8. It says adults should average seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
“Good sleep behavior is essential to preserve cardiovascular health in middle-aged and older adults,” said lead author Weili Xu, a senior researcher at the Aging Research Center in the department of neurobiology, care sciences and society at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “We encourage people to keep nighttime sleeping between seven to nine hours and to avoid frequent or excessive napping.”
Prior research has shown poor sleep may put people at higher risk for a range of chronic illnesses and conditions affecting heart and brain health. These include cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35% of U.S. adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep, while 3.6% say they get 10 or more hours.
Previous sleep duration studies show that sleeping too much or too little both may raise the risk for cardiovascular disease. But whether napping is good or bad has been unclear.
In the new study, researchers analyzed sleep patterns for 12,268 adults in the Swedish Twin Registry. Participants were an average of 70 years old at the start of the study, with no history of major cardiovascular events.
A questionnaire was used to collect data on nighttime sleep duration; daytime napping; daytime sleepiness; the degree to which they considered themselves a night person or morning person, based on the time of day they considered themselves most alert; and symptoms of sleep disorders, such as snoring and insomnia. Participants were followed for up to 18 years to track whether they developed any major cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.
People who reported sleeping between seven and nine hours each night were least likely to develop cardiovascular disease, a finding in keeping with prior research. Compared with that group, those who reported less than seven hours were 14% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and those who reported more than 10 hours were 10% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Compared with people who said they never napped, those who reported napping up to 30 minutes were 11% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The risk increased by 23% if naps lasted longer than 30 minutes. Overall, those who reported poor sleep patterns or other sleep issues – including insomnia, heavy snoring, getting too much or too little sleep, frequent daytime sleepiness and considering themselves a night person – had a 22% higher risk
Study participants who reported less than seven hours of sleep at night and napping more than 30 minutes each day had the highest risk for cardiovascular disease – 47% higher than those reporting the optimal amount of sleep and no naps.
The jury is still out on whether naps affect cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, center director for the Sleep Center of Excellence and an associate professor at Columbia University in New York City. She noted that the new research, which she was not involved in, was restricted to older adults.
Rather than trying to recoup sleep time by napping, people should try to develop healthier sleep habits that allow them to get an optimal amount of sleep at night, St-Onge said. This includes making sure the sleep environment is not too hot or cold or too noisy. Reducing exposure to bright light before going to sleep, not eating too late at night, getting enough exercise during the day and eating a healthful diet also help.
“Even if sleep is lost during the night, excessive napping is not suggested during the day,” Xu said. And, if people have persistent trouble getting enough sleep, they should consult a health care professional to figure out why, she said.
The lethargy that many Alzheimer’s patients experience is caused not by a lack of sleep, but rather by the degeneration of a type of neuron that keeps us awake, according to a study that also confirms the tau protein is behind that neurodegeneration.
The study’s findings contradict the common notion that Alzheimer’s patients sleep during the day to make up for a bad night of sleep and point toward potential therapies to help these patients feel more awake.
The data came from study participants who were patients at UC San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center and volunteered to have their sleep monitored with electroencephalogram (EEG) and donate their brains after they died.
Older adults with depression may be at much higher risk of remaining depressed if they are experiencing persistent or worsening sleep problems, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers, who published their findings online April 30 in the journal Sleep, analyzed data from almost 600 people over 60 years old who visited primary care centers in the Northeast U.S. All patients met clinical criteria for major or minor depression at the outset of the study. Continue reading →
I have written repeatedly about getting a good night’s sleep. You can check my page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details. Regular readers also know about my concern about cognition and the vulnerability of an aging brain because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family.
A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease – in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. The study is published in the medical journal Neurology.
Tau is a protein found in neurons and the protein can form into tangles. These accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This accumulation can start decades before symptoms of the disease appear. Previous studies of older adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can increase the level of tau in the cerebral spinal fluid. Trauma to the head can also increase circulating concentrations of tau in blood.
Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the research is not only one of the largest studies, but also the first to assess how sleep deprivation impacts placekeeping – or, the ability to complete a series of steps without losing one’s place, despite potential interruptions. This study builds on prior research from MSU’s sleep scientists to quantify the effect lack of sleep has on a person’s ability to follow a procedure and maintain attention. Continue reading →
Yoga and physical therapy (PT) are effective approaches to treating co-occurring sleep disturbance and back pain while reducing the need for medication, according to a new study from Boston Medical Center (BMC). Published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the research showed significant improvements in sleep quality lasting 52 weeks after 12 weeks of yoga classes or 1-on-1 PT, which suggests a long-term benefit of these non-pharmacologic approaches. In addition, participants with early improvements in pain after 6 weeks of treatment were three and a half times more likely to have improvements in sleep after the full, 12-week treatment, highlighting that pain and sleep are closely related.
Previous research from BMC discovered that yoga and PT are similarly effective for lowering pain and improving physical function, reducing the need for pain medication. In this study, results for sleep improvements were compared over a 12-week intervention period and after 1 year of follow-up.The image is in the public domain.
Sleep disturbance and insomnia are common among people with chronic low back pain (cLBP). Previous research showed that 59% of people with cLBP experience poor sleep quality and 53% are diagnosed with insomnia disorder. Medication for both sleep and back pain can have serious side effects, and risk of opioid-related overdose and death increases with use of sleep medications. Continue reading →
Getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night is a struggle for most people, but even those who do may not have the best sleep.
New research from Iowa State University finds more Americans have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The changes were independent of sleep duration, and difficulties were most prevalent in people with healthy sleep length, the findings show. The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, is one of the first to look at how multiple dimensions of sleep health change over time.
I am a big believer in getting a good night’s sleep. When I was in the working world I thought of sleep as an unwelcome interruption in my life. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sleep is a wonderful chance for the brain to reboot and your body to repair any physical mishaps. To learn more about the value of sleep please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep?
Sleep-deprived subjects gobbled doughnuts and potato chips Brain zeroes in on smells of energy-rich food After sleepless night, your ‘tired’ nose fails to talk to brain regions directing food choices
When you’re sleep-deprived, you tend to reach for doughnuts, fries and pizza. A new Northwestern Medicine study has figured out why you crave more calorie-dense, high-fat foods after a sleepless night — and how to help thwart those unhealthy choices. Continue reading →
I think that a good night’s sleep is possibly one of the most singularly unappreciated aspects of living a healthy life. There is a Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? with tons more information on the subject. I stumbled across the following infographic, however, and thought it was particularly interesting.
An international team of researchers has found that a single sleepless night can alter metabolic processes leading to weight gain and lack of muscle maintenance. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team describes their study of the impact of a sleepless night on several volunteers.
Prior research has shown that interfering with normal sleep patterns can lead to weight gain—night shift workers, for example, have a tendency to gain weight. But until now, the mechanism responsible for such metabolic changes has not been known. To learn more, the researchers with this new effort enlisted the assistance of 15 adult volunteers. Each volunteer was tested in a lab on two separate occasions. One of the occasions was after getting a good night’s sleep, the other was after the volunteer had stayed up all night. Each submitted blood, fat and muscle samples, which the researchers then studied looking for differences.
They found differences in gene activity linked to the production of proteins associated with lipid absorption and cell proliferation in the volunteers between the two visits. More specifically, they found that when volunteers missed a night of sleep, they had elevated levels of both metabolites and proteins that are involved in the process of storing fat. They also experienced a breakdown of proteins that are involved in muscle buildup and repair. The researchers also found that missing a single night of sleep caused changes to genes that have been associated with a type of inflammation linked to the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The team reports that they do not know how long the metabolic changes lasted after the volunteers returned to normal sleep patterns. But they point out that their study shows that sleep serves more functions than previously thought—it is not just to rejuvenate the brain or to conserve energy, it also plays a role in overall metabolism. They suggest more study is required to determine if such changes due to episodic sleep disruptions become long-term.
I love this post! I hope you will read it and learn from it too. The more I read and write about health and fitness, the more I appreciate that ‘little things mean a lot.’ Little things like stretching, getting a good night’s sleep and walking, not living a sedentary lifestyle. These are elements that can keep you in tip top shape, mentally and physically for years to come.
To read further on some of these little things, Check out my Pages:
This article was first published in The Hindu on 2nd October 2010.
I see people completing their workout routines and rushing through a few cursory stretches; mainly to appease the trainer, mind elsewhere, in a hurry to get going. Their flexibility does not get any better; they can still barely bend forward to reach for their thighs leave alone their toes, but they see no reason to waste time toiling with “stretches’. They have more important things to do, their cardio, so they can burn an indecent number of calories, push as much weight as they can to gain that well sculpted physique. Flexibility? Yes, well, let’s be done with it as quickly as possible!
One couldn’t be more mistaken. An inflexible muscle is more prone to injury and cannot perform as well as it should. Good quality muscle is supple, strong AND flexible.
Nighttime snacking and junk food cravings may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors and represent a potential link between poor sleep and obesity, according to the University of Arizona Health Sciences.
Nighttime snacking and junk food cravings may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors and represent a potential link between poor sleep and obesity, a study by University of Arizona Health Sciences sleep researchers stated.
The study was conducted via a nationwide, phone-based survey of 3,105 adults from 23 U.S. metropolitan areas. Participants were asked if they regularly consumed a nighttime snack and whether lack of sleep led them to crave junk food. They also were asked about their sleep quality and existing health problems. Continue reading →
This is kind of a yin/yang thing with exercise vs rest. Just as I write about the myriad benefits of exercise regularly here, it seems there are almost as many ways that not getting enough sleep damages us. If you would like to learn more, check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep?
Losing just one night of sleep led to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a small, new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form amyloid plaques, a hallmark of the disease.
While acute sleep deprivation is known to elevate brain beta-amyloid levels in mice, less is known about the impact of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid accumulation in the human brain. The study is among the first to demonstrate that sleep may play an important role in human beta-amyloid clearance.
“This research provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterizing the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.
Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product present in the fluid between brain cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid clumps together to form amyloid plaques, negatively impacting communication between neurons.
With 10,000 baby boomers becoming 65 every day, the question of sleep becomes highly relevant. The Washington Post says, “Scientists have also discovered the role of telomeres in aging. These are caps on the ends of strands of DNA that protect a cell’s genetic material when it divides. But they get a little shorter with each division, and once they get too short, a cell can no longer function normally. Older people have shorter telomeres, but so do people with high stress and poor sleep habits.”
First of all the myth that seniors need less sleep is – a myth. Dr. Michael W. Smith of WebMD offers the following definitive answer, “As children and adolescents, we need more sleep than we do as young adults. But by our senior years, we need the same seven to nine hours a night we did as teens.” On the other hand, the nature and quality of sleep does change as we age.
Hrayr P. Attarian, MD, in a talk before Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program® said that although we get less sleep as we age, we need the same amount. Older people take slightly longer to fall asleep than younger ones. Also, sleep efficiency falls as we age. The 18 to 30 year olds have 95 percent sleep efficiency; 31 to 40 year olds enjoy 88 percent sleep efficiency; 41 to 50 year olds have 85 percent sleep efficiency and 51 to 70 year olds are down to 80 percent sleep efficiency.
So the bottom line seems to be seniors need as much asleep as ever, but they have a harder time achieving it.
Medications play a part in senior sleep habits, too. As we age we often need more medications to get us through the day and night. Dr. Attarian warned about Tylenol and Advil PM specifically. He said that they worsen prostate conditions in men and that they impair reflexes in both sexes into the next day.
I have written extensively about how important a good night’s sleep is to living a healthy life. Now, it seems there are potential psychological vulnerabilities, too. I will give the link at the end of post.
Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives . Continue reading →